JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested the man credited with filming the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old man whose death has sparked unrest after video of his killing surfaced this month.
On Thursday, the GBI announced the arrest of William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr. The 50-year-old will be booked into the Glynn County jail on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
GBI agents could be seen surrounding and entering Bryan’s home in the Satilla Shores neighborhood for more than an hour following the announcement of his arrest. The GBI later confirmed it executed a search warrant on the residence.
GBI agents are still inside William Roddy Bryan’s home after his arrest for felony murder.— Kelly Wiley (@KellyWileyNews) May 21, 2020
Greg McMichael said Roddy attempted to block Arbery while he was being chased through the neighborhood the day of the deadly shooting, records show. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/WHHxsnixww
The agency will hold a news conference on the arrest on Friday morning.
Bryan marks the third person charged in the case. He joins Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father and son who armed themselves and were seen on video confronting Arbery before he was shot dead in February in Satilla Shores. Both McMichaels are charged with murder.
Kevin Gough, an attorney for Bryan, has maintained his client’s innocence since the case was thrust into the national spotlight. Gough on Thursday night posted on Facebook: “The media should not expect anything from me this evening.”
In a statement Thursday evening, attorneys representing Arbery’s parents said they were relieved to learn Bryan had been taken into custody.
“We called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process,” the statement said. “His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the GBI as well.”
The attorneys said Arbery’s family was grateful for the GBI’s efforts as the agency has “tirelessly pursued the evidence in this case," adding that they want anyone who had a hand in Arbery’s killing to be brought to justice.
Family members were also in the neighborhood Thursday as agents investigated at Bryan’s home. Thea Brooks, Arbery’s aunt, described Bryan’s arrest as a mix of emotions.
“I was really overjoyed. I was so happy because we always knew that he played a part in this, and to see him still being out, we had so many questions. But now that the GBI has got involved, (it) seems like everything is starting to work out in our favor," Brooks told News4Jax. “If we could reverse all of this, we would. But since we can’t, we’re going to continue to fight for justice. We’re going to continue to push. We’re going to continue to pray. We’re going to do our part to make sure that justice is served.”
Brooks said the release of the video has helped the family get answers about her nephew’s death.
“We would still be in the dark,” she said. “But the video came out. We did our part, and now law enforcement is finally doing their part.”
Arbery was killed Feb. 23 during a confrontation with 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son, Travis, who pursued Arbery after they saw him running through their neighborhood. According to a police report, the older McMichael told police he and his son grabbed guns and chased Arbery because they were believed he was behind burglaries in the area. He said Arbery attacked his son and the pair fought over a shotgun before Arbery was shot.
It wasn’t until May 7 — after video of the violent confrontation surfaced and once the GBI took over the investigation — that the McMichaels were arrested on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault.
The incident report from Feb. 23 indicates Gregory McMichael told police his son was chasing Arbery when the 25-year-old turned around and ran in the opposite direction. McMichael said another man, identified only as “Roddy” tried to “block (Arbery) which was unsuccessful,” the report said.
In a statement Monday, Gough characterized his client as a witness to the shooting who had no other involvement. “He is not a vigilante. Roddie did not participate in the horrific killing of this young man," Gough said.
The video reportedly recorded by Bryan shows the driver’s vehicle trailing behind Arbery in a residential neighborhood while a pickup truck can be seen farther down the road. It shows one man standing in the bed of the truck while another is positioned near the driver’s side door.
Moments later, the video shows Arbery run around the truck to the right before he cuts back in front of it. Then a gunshot rings out, followed by a second shot. Arbery can be seen punching a man holding what appears to be a shotgun, who fires a third shot. Arbery staggers and falls face down in the street.
Gregory McMichael retired last year after more than two decades as an investigator for the local prosecutor’s office. Because of those ties, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case. Two outside prosecutors assigned the case have also stepped aside.
The McMichaels remain jailed in Glynn County waiting for a preliminary court hearing and for a judge to decide whether to free them on bond pending trial. Attorneys for the father and son have urged people not to rush to judgment in the case.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.